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This is an account of Maelstrom for a certain few people who are planning to attend an event in July 2011 (which is their first ever LARP), which will also tackle basic information on the site and practicalities. SO! This bit will have the basic site details and there will also be my take on LARP to ease the slightly worried mind, and a few photographs of things I've never really expected to take photographs of in order to give a better "behind the scenes" look. Seasoned LARPers can skip this bit, unless they're incredibly interested in the toilet block. If you are.. well, that's worrying in itself!



Maelstrom events last between 3-4 days, depending on the event (the Easter holiday can go on for longer due to the bank holidays, but most of the events fall into periods where a lot of people have either work or university so it tends to be Friday evening to Sunday afternoon). The majority of players will be camping for the entirety of the event at the site itself, and facilities are supplied.

The site tends to be set up in a OOC (out of character area) and an IC (in-character) area - there have been various ways they've set this up, but I'll go with the Easter version.



Basically, when you're in the IC area, you're supposed to always be in character, when you're in the OOC bit you are you and can do whatever you would normally. You cannot die or get attacked as a character when you're in the OOC bit. You are able to walk in the IC when you're not in character, but you should always have an OOC band on - this is bright yellow and shows other people you're not "there" - or at a pinch, put your hand up in the air and walk along to get to where you're going asap. Preferably, don't interact with others already IC unless you genuinely need to, but common sense will dictate that speaking to someone who's lounging about on their own is generally okay whereas it's not if they're in the middle of a fight ;).

Anything OOC prop wise should also be kept with the OOC area, unless you need it in the IC area for practical reasons - if you do, it should really be hidden away somewhere if it looks completely out of place. For example, in our IC tent Caroline does all the group cooking and the modern day cooking set etc is hidden in a section out the back. Dan actually sleeps there during the night, so his kit is in a bag out the way too. However, things like cameras are generally okay as long as they're not in people's faces - a lot of LARPers like getting their photos taken IC as it tends to look better when taken during the game, as long as it doesn't distract from whatever it is they're doing. Beer cans, drink bottles, there are things to make it look *better* but no one is going to get too hot under the collar if you're drinking a can of Carling or eating off a plastic plate, for example.

Many players have their sleeping stuff and tents in the OOC area as they have modern day tents, so it is very common to have a little stream of people going in and out as you wish. If you wish to go OOC, you should really walk out of the IC area, or (at a pinch again), go somewhere where no one can see you such as your IC tent and then go OOC. If you're doing the tent thing, this should really be in cases where you as a character wouldn't leave the camp or your tent (perhaps there's a mob outside, or there's a bunch of nasty people mugging others in the dark) but you really, *really* need the toilet or a practical, can't really wait IC, reason. You can't use it as a get out of jail free card. Preferably you'll be walking to the OOC as a character, and it shouldn't really be too hard to do - at worse, get someone to accompany you, the beer tent is on the way and normally there's someone who wants to go that way ;). Needless to say, any injuries should be taken to First Aid asap, and you can go OOC straight away. There is a call of "man down" if you're in the middle of a fight, and everyone will stop to allow the injured to get out. Although the number of injuries tend to be incredibly small, there are fights, crowds of people, weapons can swing at strange angles and there's ropes for the camps etc, so accidents can happen.

The IC area is where you have all the IC tents, groups, beer tent, traders and the like and you should be acting in character as soon as you go past the gate which has been represented as a wiggly red line on my map.

1.
GOD - Games Operational Desk. This is where the refs are based, people who deal with character creation, problems, lost property, effects, any non-character plot, practical issues with the site and so on. You'll come here if you have a problem, need a ref for a supplication (prayer), or just to pick up your character pack at the start of the game. You can tell a staff member as they will generally have a coloured baseball cap on with either REF or the logo on it, and often have random wires attached to their head as they're mostly on walkie talkie. Different colour caps mean different things, but anyone with a ref cap will probably be able to direct you to where you need to go if you're not sure

2.
View from pretty much the gateway, looking toward the OOC area. The First Aid tent is to the left hand side, the track leads out toward the main road.

3.
General OOC area - at the moment they're allowing people to park their cars in lines and be able to camp next to them, or somewhere reasonable, so it's a bit of a mixture of carpark and tentage. It's safer than it sounds as it's rare that cars move about when the game starts, and the paths between them are pretty wide. Those who do know they need their car mid-game to go get shopping or whatever often park closer to the gate. You'll often find players lounging around having a rest in their tents, half dressed in their costumes/picking up something (eg a torch for when it gets darker), getting food, that sort of thing.

4.
Because the OOC area looks horrible from my photo, here's a nice picture of the actual countryside setting we're in!

5.
Current toilet block - working sinks, toilet cubicles, mirrors, there's some shower blocks too which I've been informed have nice hot water and a lot of space in it (I met quite a few people who had showers and were surprisingly happy about them), so it's not music festival territory or anything like that. Toilet roll is always topped up, they keep things as clean as possible, and there are portaloos dotted around the place as well, although speaking as someone who has a large costume I would always recommend the larger blocks for ease, especially in the dark for lighting. These are temporary loos, Maelstrom is trying to get a main site and then they will be doing permanent loo blocks and much better facilities. However, these are certainly a reasonable alternative.

6.
Beer tent (as seen from the top of the IC field). Near to the IC gate, also has a more IC food stall inside it too to the right hand side. The tent sells alcohol and nibbles for real life money, and has everything from beers, ales, soft drinks to alcopops and bottles of beer. You are able to drink your own drinks there too, and eat, it's more of a social tent for everyone. Drink is well priced (eg a bottle of alcopop is £2.20, a pint is about £1.50, bottles of mead £10, soft drink tend to be about £1 for a pint etc). Food stall is also selling for real life money. There's tables and seating inside, you do not need to buy a drink if you're there. Although fights and altercations do happen in the beer tent, it runs under the common sense rules as you have a lot of people there with food and drinks and for safety reasons it's best to do it outside (or at least get the fight outside asap). IC theft is perfectly fine in somewhere like the beer tent, just don't get caught ;) (more on theft later)



There are some IC bars set up in tents in the IC area by players - you'll generally see the little signs. These places sell alcohol for IC money, not real money, as otherwise it's a problem with licensing rules.

7.


Traders. This event had them all in a line, but you will generally find them in one area near the beer tent. These are real life traders selling LARP kit, costume and other such things for real money, but are set up to look as IC as possible. Most will be veteran LARPers themselves, and attend many different events or supply to tv/shows. Usual stuff includes costume, weapons (swords/pistols etc), make up, IC props, jewelery and so on specifically for LARPing rather than, say, chocolate bars or a corner shop set up.

I think this is Darkblade, judging by the jewelery bit - this is their pistol section.

8. Haven't got a photo of it, but it's a normal tent for extra food selling for real money. Feast has everything from hot dogs to cooked meals to sandwiches to muffins and cakes to cans of soft drink/bottled water and so on. A takeaway box of stew and rice was about £4, hot dog £1.50, burger £2 - £4 depending on what you had in it, muffin £1, etc.

There is free drinkable water from the standpipes around the field too, can be used for everything from water bottles to cooking.

9.
The woods, as modeled by Bonnie.

10. IC area. Where all the IC tents turn up.. and that can be tackled on the next page... wahahaha!

Other basic things:

LAMMIES:

Lammies are the red bits of plastic that are tied onto props. They have information on the item and are generally only found for "special" things - for example a crafted weapon (which can then be used for more damage), magic, things like gemstones, IC drugs and the like. Swords and daggers without lammies can be used, but they are limited as they are considered to be pretty basic weapons so can only do basic damage. So if you hit someone with it and it actually hits them, they take a single blow. If it's a lammied item and the player who uses it has the skill, they may then be able to give you more damage for each blow you receive. Pistols cannot be basic - they have to have a lammie to be useable, as you can possibly see on the photograph below.



All players have hit points - the amount you have depends on what species you are, how much armour you have and so on. If someone calls damage on you, and you run out of hit points, you fall over and have a good chance of dying depending on the circumstances. There are healers in the game, healing potions and so on - unless you're actively running around in a battle, you should be okay. We will talk this bit through with you when you're here though ;)

Lammied items are generally worth something and therefore people may try to steal them. What they should do is steal the whole prop, take it to GOD who will snip the lammie off, give the player back the lammie and then keep the prop for the original owner to pick up. Sometimes people forget to put on items if it's something small or normally kept in a pouch, so you can keep the lammie immediately. Lammies left in IC areas (eg on a bar table) are fine, lammies in obviously OOC areas not suitable to be pinched (eg a Head bag tucked in the OOC area of the IC tent). Money is pinchable again as long as it's not obviously OOC.

MONEY:

There is IC money in the system, all of it is metal cast so has a very nice "chink!" to it (and is sodding heavy, quite frankly!) and is pretty much fantastic. There are 4 currencies of metal coins, and there is an exchange rate in the game which fluctuates pretty much like a normal economy. You get money at the start with your character and you can earn it through tasks through other players, selling items, and so on. You do not really need much money in the game, it's just a nice additional element to it and many players look to gain money for much the same reasons as you would in real life. Barter and trade and general swaps are also pretty common, some cultures do not deal in money.



DRUGS AND GAME EFFECTS:

There are IC drugs, which are lammies - they have a tear off bit at the end, which you open and then you have the results on what you need to do now on the inside. It may be how you're supposed to act (eg for Oco powder, this has a similar effect to social real life drugs so you're very happy etc - it is also very addictive so you may need to roleplay trying to get more). If it's a poison or something that is serious, you may have a "go to GOD" and you then have to find a ref and find out what to do now.

To apply the drug, the player has to rip open the lammie and then mime putting it in or (normally) there's a sticker to attach to whatever it is you're putting the stuff on. For example, if it's in a drink, you have to carefully apply the sticker to the bottom of the glass or wherever without the other person seeing - if they then drink the drink, you hand them the lammie with the details. Some drugs are airborne or whatever, again you'll be told how to behave so don't worry. Drugs are very expensive and normally banned by whoever's hosting the event (they're always hosted by a culture with their own rules) so generally you rarely find someone randomly poisoning people. It's normally your friends you have to keep an eye on unless you've been a busy bee and found enemies already!

Ultimately don't worry if there is some type of game effect - you will normally be told what to do, or if you're not sure, do have a quick word with the ref or even a player nearby who's involved - LARPers are pretty friendly people and most understand entirely how hard it is to keep up if you're new!

ROLEPLAYING ITSELF

In LARP, you're creating a character and playing that character through the game - if your character dies, you create a new one at GOD. Essentially it's a form of improvisational acting and can be as elaborate or as minor as you like - not everyone needs to be Jack Sparrow, you are perfectly welcome to be the nice normal person in a pub who just wants to make a bit of money. Equally even the most flamboyant of people need to have a break sometimes! You can really just play a form of yourself, and you don't need to constantly be on the look out for adventures or anything like that - it's quite common to have people just enjoying sitting around the fire and having a sing song, have a drink with a friend, walk around to shop, watch other players (Novak's Carnival has shows, for example), do guard duty, and so on. Caroline in our group often brings her book and sits by the IC tent reading it in the sun, for example - she is in character, and if someone comes up to her to ask where one of the others is she'll answer in character, but obviously it's not "grrrr!" or anything like that.



Basically don't ever feel like you *need* do go off and be active - as long as you're having fun and it's not affecting anyone else, then you're fine ;).

DOWNTIME

You'll hear people talking about doing things in downtime - this is the period between the events, and this game allows characters to be doing things in this period, such as crafting items, exploring areas, fighting armies, building things, farming and so on. What you do will depend on what your character already knows and what you want to do - many players improve their character's skills, or have to do things to keep their workers in their colonies alive. At this stage, don't worry too much about it - it'll become easier when you're there, and is only really relevant if you're coming to more than one event ^^.

GENERAL SOCIETY

Maelstrom is an over 16 years game, and therefore you are able to tackle "adult" themes. There is religion in the game, and sex and gambling is also allowed - in fact, there is an IC brothel and an IC casino there. For the brothel, just in case you're wondering, the person who buys the session tends to get a shoulder massage when they disappear out the back (as I understand it, the players acting in the brothel normally actually have massage qualifications/experience in real life) although that's not necessary either. There is no full nudity - must be covered at all points, although we do have loincloths etc for our Erotic Tea Party - and everything is completely consensual. GOD takes complaints very very seriously. If you do find yourself uncomfortable, it's best to either just get out of the area or just have a quick quiet word with the other player to tone it down (or at worst, state it loudly). I've never personally felt threatened at a Maelstrom event though, people tend to be very considerate toward others so the majority will not try to do anything remotely like that unless they've had the green light from the the other person that it's welcomed.

And there's probably a ton more stuff on top of that, but that's the bit I can think of! Details for the actual cultures and rules for Maelstrom can be found at THIS SITE

Photographs of the fun bits will follow!

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November 2013

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